SeaFrance Logo (1996 - 2012)
|Defunct||9 January 2012|
|United Kingdom, France, English Channel, Dover, Calais|
|Services||Passenger transportation, freight transportation|
The company employed a total of 1,850 staff, including 1,300 seagoing personnel, and was the largest employer in the town of Calais. Its sister company, SeaFrance Limited, employed 200 in England. On 9 January 2012 the Commercial Court in Paris announced their decision to liquidate SeaFrance. From then on the company was prohibited from trading, with the loss of 1,850 jobs.
SeaFrance began operations between Dover and Calais in 1996 after the termination of a pooling agreement with Sealink (by then known as Stena Sealink Line) in 1995. The service initially began with the former Sealink vessels Fiesta and Côte d'Azur which became SeaFrance Cézanne and SeaFrance Renoir respectively after extensive refurbishments to create a distinctive French atmosphere on board. Former Sealink train ferry Nord Pas-de-Calais became the MS Nord Pas-de-Calais and operated as a freight only ferry, though SeaFrance did market the ship to passengers as a quiet ship. The three vessels were later joined by the former Stena Londoner which became the SeaFrance Monet. SeaFrance quickly became the second busiest operator on the Dover-Calais route after P&O European Ferries and ahead of their former partners now known as Stena Line. In 1997 the SeaFrance Manet entered service after a five year charter to Stena Line for the Newhaven—Dieppe service, the ship essentially replaced the Monet which was later sold, after being damaged in Calais. SeaFrance took delivery of the SeaFrance Rodin in 2001, their first new ship and the fastest Dover—Calais ferry. She was joined in 2005 by the SeaFrance Berlioz, a sister ship built at a different yard.
SeaFrance was one of five companies invited to tender for the operation of the Transmanche Ferries service between Dieppe and Newhaven. The SNCF and later SNAT operated the route until 1992, when they withdrew after poor performance due to almost constant strike action. The route later passed to Sealink Stena Line (later renamed Stena Sealink Line and finally Stena Line). The route became part of P&O Stena Line with the merger of the company's Eastern Channel services and they operated the route until 1998, after which Hoverspeed operated a fast-ferry service on the route until 2004. Because the French local government did not want the route to be lost, they started a subsidized line called Transmanche Ferries in April 2001. After five years of service and the arrival of two new-build ships, the government had to tender the line in a concession to comply with European Union regulations. The contract to operate the service was awarded to LD Lines on 21 December 2006.
In 2005, SeaFrance made a €9.27 million loss, but made a net profit of €7.9 million in 2006. In 2008, the company lost €20 million and since October 2008 had been losing in the region of €3 million a month.
On 17 February 2009, SeaFrance announced a restructuring plan following a decline in its freight carryings and significant losses. The restructuring would see up to 650 jobs lost in France and the withdrawal of the SeaFrance Cézanne, SeaFrance Nord Pas-de-Calais and SeaFrance Renoir. A previous restructuring plan by SeaFrance submitted in January 2009 was rejected by owners SNCF. Following the restructuring announcement LD Lines indicated they would be interested in taking over SeaFrance. On 16 March 2009, Brittany Ferries announced it had also made an offer for SeaFrance. The Brittany Ferries offer involved the creation of a new holding company in which Brittany Ferries would have a 75% stake with the remainder being owned by SNCF. In September 2010 the CFDT union rejected a plan for 400 redundancies as part of restructuring.
On 15 November 2011, the company suspended operations for 48 hours pending a court hearing the following day. At the hearing on 16 November, the commercial court ordered the liquidation of SeaFrance, but allowed the ferry operator to continue trading until 28 January 2012. However, actual ferry operations were shut down, with the administrators claiming that the safety of vessels, staff and property could not be guaranteed. The union argued that the shutdown was an illegal lock-out and was ruining SeaFrance’s core business, with customers switching to competitors, and suggested it was part of a move by management to sabotage a takeover by a co-operative of SeaFrance workers ("SCOP"). On 19 December 2011, the commercial court in Paris postponed its decision on the takeover bid for SeaFrance submitted by the co-operative until 3 January. The main staff union, the CFDT, was back in Paris the following day, to hear the appeal court’s verdict on its request that SeaFrance’s ferries be allowed to return to service. "The judicial administrators withdrew their request that SeaFrance be liquidated with immediate effect and this was good news", said a senior official of the CFDT. "We are now demanding that the government, via [its parent company] SNCF, become a shareholder in the new SeaFrance company and thus allow us to save 1,000 jobs", he added. The co-operative’s bid had attracted promises of funding from local authorities of less than €15 million out of the estimated €25-30 million required.
On 9 January 2012 a court ruled that additional subsidies would have been illegal, ruling out the union's proposal, and SeaFrance was officially liquidated. The court invited offers for the enterprise and its assets by 10 May. Three were submitted:
- Eurotunnel offered €65 million for the whole real and intangible assets of SeaFrance
- Louis Dreyfus Group-DFDS consortium offered €50 million for the Berlioz and Rodin (and €30/€25 million respectively for just one vessel)
- Stena Line offered €30 million for the Rodin.
The four ships that SeaFrance operated when the company went into liquidation were:
- SeaFrance Rodin
- SeaFrance Berlioz
- SeaFrance Nord Pas-de-Calais
- SeaFrance Molière
SeaFrance Rodin and SeaFrance Berlioz were docked in Calais, and SeaFrance Molière and SeaFrance Nord Pas-de-Calais in Dunkerque, awaiting decisions on their futures. On 11 June 2012 a bid by Eurotunnel for the Rodin, Berlioz and Pas-de-Calais for lease to another operator was accepted. Eurotunnel is leasing the acquired vessels to a new company called "MyFerryLink", essentially a workers' co-operative of former Seafrance employees. The new company started operations on the Dover - Calais route on August 20, 2012, using "Rodin" and "Berlioz". Nord pas de Calais is supposed to join the fleet at a later date. The SeaFrance Moliere is now operated by DFDS Seaways as Dieppe Seaways.
The ships used by SeaFrance at one time or another were as follows:
- SeaFrance Berlioz (built 2005). A sister ship of SeaFrance Rodin. Unlike the Rodin, which was built in Finland, the Berlioz was built in France, by Chantiers de l'Atlantique at Saint-Nazaire.
- SeaFrance Cézanne (built 1980, converted 1990). Formerly named Fiesta: renamed SeaFrance Cézanne in 1996. Withdrawn from passenger service in 2008, after the introduction of the SeaFrance Molière. Withdrawn from service 12 February 2009. Laid up at Dunkerque on 14 February 2009.  Sold to Belize interests in 2011 and renamed Western Light. Left Dunkerque, in October 2011, for demolition at Alang, India.
- SeaFrance Manet (built 1984 and named initially the M/S Champs Elysées).
- Formerly a passenger ferry, from 2006 used for freight services. Sold, in August 2009, to Stena line, for use within the Irish Sea and renamed Stena Navigator.
- SeaFrance Molière (built 2002), formerly Superfast X and Jean Nicoli, purchased by SeaFrance in 2007 and refitted for the Dover—Calais route in Dunkerque at a cost of €15 million. The vessel previously operated on longer crossings on North and Baltic Sea routes. After transfer to leasing company Sarl Poquelin Bail, entered service with SeaFrance in mid-August 2008 in freight only mode and full passenger service on 1 October 2008.
- SeaFrance Monet.
- SeaFrance Renoir (built 1981 named initially the Côte d'Azur). In collision at Calais with Chantilly in 1982. Withdrawn and laid up in July 2008, but returned to service in September 2008 to operate additional freight sailings. Returned to service in late 2008, to cover for refits then laid up in Dunkerque from August 2009. Like the SeaFrance Cézanne, she was sold to Belize interests in 2011 and renamed Eastern Light before leaving Dunkerque in October 2011, again for demolition at Alang, India.
- SeaFrance Rodin (built 2001).
- SeaFrance Nord Pas-de-Calais (built 1987). Built as a train ferry for service between Dover Western Docks and Dunkerque Ouest. Following the opening of the Channel Tunnel and the ending of the Sealink pooling agreement she transferred to SeaFrance and operated as a freight only vessel.
-  BBC News 9/1/12
- - "SeaFrance Molière, a new ferry on the Calais/Dover route"
- Andrew Spurrier: "SeaFrance to shed a third of its workforce", Lloyds List 18 February 2009
- "Ferry company could cut 650 jobs". BBC News. 17 February 2009.
- "Channel ferry firm seeks takeover". BBC News. 20 February 2009.
- Andrew Spurrier: "Brittany Ferries makes offer for SeaFrance", Lloyds List 16 March 2009
- "www.fairplay.co.uk - Union rejects SeaFrance plan". Retrieved 1 October 2010.
- "SeaFrance suspends ferry services pending court ruling". BBC News. 15 November 2011. Retrieved 15 November 2011.
- Stuart Todd, "Court postpones SeaFrance decision again", IFW, 20 December 2011 (accessed 21 December 2011)
- "Ferry company SeaFrance goes into liquidation". BBC News. Retrieved 9 January 2012.
- "Bataille navale pour la reprise des ferries de SeaFrance", La Tribune, 28 May 2012 (accessed 29 May 2012)
- Wright, Robert (11 June 2012). "Eurotunnel to take over SeaFrance vessels". Financial Times. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
- Dover Ferry Photos | M v Champs Elysees / Stena Parisien / Seafrance Manet
- Forbes.com - Veolia sells ferry to SeaFrance at undisclosed price
- SeaFrance acquires third modern ferry-28 March, 2008
- "M/S Superfast X". Archived from the original on 30 Jul 2012.
- SeaFrance - "The SeaFrance Molière makes her first commercial crossing"
- SeaFrance - "SeaFrance Molière, the new ferry on the Calais-Dover route"
- Dover Ferry Photos - Mv Seafrance Nord Pas de Calais
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